My name is Hangda Zhang. I am a video producer at AJ+, based in Washington D.C.
In the past month, major journalists associations, including the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), hosted their annual conferences. I was among the 1,500 journalists who attended the AAJA convention, which was an opportunity to recharge myself. I felt so grateful to have benefited from AAJA throughout my career that I volunteered to help program the conference with a team co-led by Jin Ding, a Chinese Storytellers founding member.
2020 has been an odd year in many ways. We are grappling with a public health crisis, economic slowdown, racial reckoning and election anxiety. At a time when journalism is most needed to hold those in power accountable and comfort the afflicted, many journalists have lost their jobs, and many newsrooms are struggling to diversify their staff and coverage. It is crucial for journalists to come together and figure out how we move forward.
In a session during the conference, speakers discussed community organizing experiences in their newsrooms. One speaker said: “The strength lies in people coming together.” And this is what we are doing at AAJA and Chinese Storytellers.
For this week’s Rock the Boat, I ask Chinese storytellers who also attended the AAJA convention: What does forming an alliance mean to you and your career? How did AAJA 2020 inspire you?
(Chinese Storytellers members Qi Zhang and Zhaoyin Feng speak at a session about covering China-U.S. tensions at AAJA 2020. Screenshot by Jin Ding)
MAKE A SPLASH 卧虎藏龙
Best work from our members.
📵 The Human Costs of a WeChat Ban
MIT Technology Review’s Karen Hao speaks to her father and a few Chinese nationals in the U.S. about a potential WeChat ban. Rui Zhong explains in a piece for Lausan that the brunt of the ban’s consequences will fall on ordinary people caught between the two nations.
📺 China’s Subtitle Army
Zeyi Yang 杨泽毅 and Meaghan Tobin write for Rest of World on how a small group of volunteers bring China’s queer community the movies that the government doesn’t want them to watch.
🎓 Caught up in Between
BBC’s Zhaoyin Feng writes about how some Chinese students in the U.S. are recalibrating their views of their host and home countries while being stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic and squeezed by political tensions.
👂 Mental Health Talks
In a BBC video directed and produced by Yuhong Pang, the Asian American comedian Angel Yau tells her story of using comedy to explore the taboo around mental health in the Asian American community.
🍰 Malaysia’s Complex Cakes
(Photo by Karen Chai, provided by Samantha Chong)
Samantha Chong 张慧恩 writes for Atlas Obscura about the mesmerizing geometry in Malaysia’s most complex cakes kek lapis sarawak which became a huge hit on the Great British Bake Off.
🍿 Watching ‘Hamilton’ in 2020
What is it like to watch "Hamilton" when the romanticized version of an optimistic, inclusive America feels detached from reality? Yangyang Cheng explores in her monthly SupChina column what the hit musical has meant to her over the years, how the election of 2016 compelled her to repurpose her life and the enduring power of the written word.
⛰️ Laying New Routes
Why would an American spend a decade building a rock climbing paradise from scratch in a remote village in Southwest China? Wufei Yu writes on Outside.
🤩 One Reporter for 10 Million
The Christain Science Monitor’s video producer Jingnan Peng writes about the biggest source of sign language news for more than 10 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans during COVID-19, a small home studio near Detroit, with just one full-time reporter.
💣 Hiroshima: 75 Years On
On the 75th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hangda Zhang 张航达 produces a video explaining the legacy of the first and only atomic bombs used in war.
👋 Submit your published work in three ways: 1. DM us on Twitter; 2. Post it on the Slack channel #shamelessplugs; 3. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ROCK THE BOAT 抛砖引玉
Thoughts from our members and beyond on topics about the media industry, diversity and more.
What does forming an alliance mean to you in your reporting or career? How did AAJA 2020 inspire you?
Yurui Wu, a sophomore journalism student at Northwestern University, shares his excitement about finding a community:
Before I logged onto my first AAJA Zoom meeting, I had doubts about whether this was for me. As a college sophomore who isn’t yet sure about pursuing journalism as a career, it seemed a little bit early to plunge into networking. Ethnicity-based alliance building was new for me as well. Having gone to a predominantly white high school, I was used to being one of the few minority students in the room and rarely felt uncomfortable.
But after attending dozens of meetings and following dozens of journalists on Twitter, I couldn’t be more pleased to have participated in this year’s virtual convention. Experienced journalists are willing to help the younger generation to chase their dreams the same way they were lifted up by others. At a panel on covering U.S.–China relations, I saw familiar names from Chinese Storytellers, who shared the same worries with me, and we laughed at the same jokes.
I now know that there is a group of professionals I can rely on when I need advice, that there’s a community full of like-minded young people who are walking the same path as I am. Most importantly, I know that I am not alone in this difficult journey.
Freelance journalist Emma Li writes about how an alliance should propel its members to challenge outdated norms:
I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the AAJA 2020 programming and a wide range of attendees. We informed each other of issues that are not only pertinent to the current time we live in, but also will continue to serve as frames and perspectives to evaluate the future. But I believe an alliance is more than a support network. An alliance should also challenge its members to question outdated norms and prejudices. It applies a healthy dose of pressure to propel the community forward in directions that better serve each member both professionally and personally.
Video journalist Yiwen Niu shares her experience of forming alliances since college:
As a Chinese student journalist in Florida, I struggled with finding an alliance. I was once the only international student and one of the only two Asian students in a reporting class. Whenever I pitched a story about international students, the professor would ask, “Why is it important to our local community?” I doubted myself initially. But eventually I learned to appreciate his challenge. It propelled me to come up with strong pitches. It was also the first time I realized the importance of finding people who can empathize with my struggle in a newsroom. I eventually found my support network and peer mentors. We comforted each other at trying moments and learned from each other’s unique experience.
After I left our small local newsroom, I interned at an international news network. I didn’t find my people in the company. So I reached out to experienced Asian journalists outside of my workplace for advice. Their inspiring experiences motivated me to pursue a career in journalism.
Jin Ding, co-chair of programming at AAJA 2020 and co-founder of Chinese Storytellers, shares her experience of being empowered and empowering others at AAJA conventions:
AAJA 2017 was life-changing for me. I was one of the only minority employees at work, and I struggled with bringing up diversity issues to my bosses. One piece of advice I got at AAJA 2017 was: “You need to be so visible at work, until your bosses immediately start thinking about diversity, equity and inclusion every time they see your face.” I left the convention feeling empowered and supported. Most importantly, I felt ready to face the uphill battle at my workplace. Since then, I’ve gotten promoted to inclusion manager at work, returned to AAJA convention each year and started volunteering at AAJA. This year, I co-chaired the convention’s programming team. My goal was clear from the beginning: to offer fellow AAPI journalists the same empowering experience I had at AAJA.
To me, both AAJA and Chinese Storytellers show the power of alliances. During AAJA 2020, a sense of pride washed over me as I watched Chinese storytellers present on panels, lead workshops, showcase their work and speak up at social events. How lucky I am to be part of both communities!
🤔 Tag @CNstorytellers on Twitter to keep the conversation going.
RAISE A GLASS 拍个马屁
We recognize our members’ professional achievements (and flatter them).
🏆 Dayu Zhang’s video, The Thin Yellow Line, won a 2020 SOPA Award for Excellence in Video Reporting.
🥁 Jin Ding 丁进 has been elected to be the vice president of finance at the AAJA national board.
🏵️ Isabelle Niu has been selected for Poynter’s fifth Leadership Academy for Diversity in Digital Media Poynter co-hosts by Poynter University and with The Washington Post.
🏆 Crystal Wong’s film on the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests has been nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy Award - Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story in a Newscast.
🎤 Olivia Qi Zhang, Zhaoyin Feng and Kaidi Ruby Yuan spoke at AAJA 2020 conference. Zhang and Feng discussed challenges in covering China-U.S. tensions. Yuan spoke about the future of college journalism.
🥂 Tell us what makes you proud via email, Slack or Twitter.
MAKE SOME DOUGH 肥水入田
Jobs, gigs, grants, fellowships, etc.
National Geographic is hiring an assistant managing editor to create authentic and inclusive stories about both historical topics and the modern-day human condition, reflecting successes as well as global challenges. APPLY
China Digital Times is hiring a fall intern (paid). The intern will help monitor online news about China and post content to the website. APPLY
LA Times Beijing bureau is seeking a news assistant/researcher for its Beijing bureau. Prior journalism experience and native-speaker Mandarin are required. If you’re interested, please send a CV and cover letter by Sept. 1 to email@example.com.
👀 Find more on the #opportunities channel on Slack.
Chinese Storytellers is a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry. Follow us @CNStorytellers. Questions? Suggestions? Comments? Tell us.